NY Sports Dog: January 2009

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Shea Goodbye Rally a Success

Today's Farewell to Shea rally was a huge success, and we'd like to send a shout out to the great folks at Baseball Fever for doing such a fantastic job.

Now all we need is for Mets management to listen to this great fanbase and finalize the roster.

Here is a clip of some of today's crowd singing our favorite song.

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Friday, January 30, 2009

An Informal Farewell to Shea: NY Times

The NY Times has picked up the story on tomorrow's event.

They report:

Saturday’s event is not endorsed by the team, which is not planning any ceremony when the final girders and bricks come down. Demolition crews need to clear debris so that a drainage system can be installed under what will eventually become a parking lot for 2,000 cars. The Mets are planning on marking the spot where home plate once was, though.

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Nervous Nick Evans: Is He the Key?

With all of the recent "Expo caliber" player signings, the failure to bring in any hitters of note (Dunn, Manny, etc), the season looks like it might come down to whether or not Nick Evans can continue to mash lefty's.

OK, OK stop laughing and at least hear me out.

With the Mets lefthanded cadre of returning players and new additions, and the increasing amount of lefthanded starters and relievers in the NL, every righthanded bat is a commodity.

For the unaware (and there aren't many of you since we know how savvy Mets fans are), Nick Evans scorched lefty's for much of last year.

How good was he?

2008 Batting Splits
vs. Left7215238025611500.319.380.514.894
vs. Right3735200410900.

That is a pretty good sample size, and the results are there.

It's also no coincidence that when the Mets played their best baseball of the season in July and August (18-8 and 18-11), that Nick was putting up back to back months of .300+ BA with a few timely hits thrown in for good measure.

He faltered in September, and we know how the club finished.

So as we enter 2009, the club has essentially the same starting lineup--Fernando Tatis and Daniel Murphy seem likely to split time in leftfield, and that leaves Nick Evans as a primary righthanded bat off the bench.

His minor league stats show a guy quite capable of hitting for average with a little power thrown in, and he is improving...the real question is what is his ceiling?

Though overmatched at times, he does have a quick bat and an agressive attitude at the plate--both good signs.

If he only looked a little less nervous.
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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Congress of the Cow

So now Congress is doing their thing to Citi Field according to a piece in the Huffington Post, and they have taken it up a notch by bringing the new administration to the mix.

Personally I don't blame them. CitiGroup has taken $45 billion in bailout money, and they have a $400 million deal with the Mets for the naming rights on the new stadium.

It doesn't seem like money very well spent in these tough times.

Now two Congressman from opposite sides of the aisle, Dennis Kucinich (D) and Ted Poe (R), wrote the new Treasury Secretary to see if he would intervene in the deal.

"We request that you intervene and demand that Citigroup dissolve the agreement they have with the New York Mets," reads the letter. "Absent this outcome, we feel strongly that you should compel Citigroup to return immediately all federal monies received to date, as well as cancel all loan guarantees."

Ouch....just give me baseball.

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A Mets Memory...

I've been thinking about the upcoming season and starting to believe.

There is magic in 2009.

Who's with me?

Say Goodbye to Shea on Saturday at 12 p.m.

A dedicated group of Mets fans from the wonderful site Baseball Fever, is hosting a "Goodbye to Shea" event this Saturday at Noon.

There are a ton of great photos of the Shea demolition, but for the ultimate collection of Shea demo pictures, please visit the Shea Stadium Demolition page. The page is maintained by Eric Okurowski, a 31-year-old M.B.A. student (and lifelong Mets fan) from Babylon.

With fans this dedicated to the old girl, it's only fitting that there be one final celebration of a stadium that we cherished. Saturday's Baseball Fever tribute meeting will be near Shea's famed subway entrance. The media is expected to attend.

Baseball Fever's letter, and more details on Saturday's events are here:

To whom it may concern,

As it is evident to all from the New York Area, the end is terribly near for the ballpark that housed our beloved New York Mets for 44 years. The life of the ballpark that hosted four World Series’, a Pope, The Yankees, The Beatles, The Stones, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, and a Red Cross staging area after 9/11 is rapidly nearing its end. While it has been known since September 28th that there would be no more games in the park, the end did not fully begin to appear until the past two weeks when sections of the structure came down rapidly. Now, the steel skeleton is nearly all that remains of the park, and appears to be gone by the end of this weekend.

On Saturday, January 31st at 12:00pm, a large group of fans are planning to organize at the big blue ballpark one last time to say farewell to the old girl. There is no cost of course, and the day will include a walking tour around the site one last time, stories, photographs, and much more.

Last weekend, groups of fans and tourists flocked to the site to take pictures, share stores, and even leave notes on the fence around the demo site in what was a truly emotional two days for fathers with their children and tourists from around the world. This weekend, we would like to organize one formal farewell that was never done by the team for the fans. In the Bronx, memorabilia has been carried with dignitaries and schoolchildren from old park to new park, while no such occasion has been held for the Mets fans.

We invite you and any of your staff to attend the event and help us document the collective organization of fans at Shea Stadium one last time, not for a funeral, but for a celebration.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at any time. Your input, suggestions for greatest exposure, assistance, and support would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you in advance for the diligence in your reply and I look forward to seeing you on Saturday.

Best regards...
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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Bad Mets Baseball Cards

Let's take a quick break from the Hot Stove--we have an ice storm here, and I am stuck at home. In a moment of sheer boredom I grabbed a stack of old baseball cards to look at over a cup of coffee.

Now we all love our Mets--that is a certainty--but I need to ask: Has one team ever been beset with more bad baseball card depictions?

Here is a typical Mets baseball card from the 70s:

It looks like a designer went to the studio and asked, "what are the two worst colors we could use for the Mets? I got it! Let's use crap brown and piss yellow. The best part is they have nothing to do with the Mets."

OK, he was rolling...and now came his moment of inspiration.

"Hey guys, let's do something totally unique on this one and use no effort or creativity while doing so. What about using an aluminum bat with electric tape on the handle? Yes, the one laying there next to the real bats--use that one. Then we'll put some crappy machinery in the background and position the player so we get a full view of thousands of empty seats."

So this is what we get--crap--and as I peruse some great Mets cards of the past we see this lack of inspiration over and over again (Felix Millan anyone? This card cracks me up.).

Even when the Met isn't the featured player on the card they seem to get the short end of the stick (so to speak).

Do you think Joel Youngblood ever fully recovered from this?

OK my friends, let me hear some more Mets baseball card horror stories.

If you can top Joel Youngblood getting a Tim Foli mustache ride, you'll get a prize.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Memo to Ollie: Listen to Doug Glanville

For those of you that don't know, former major league ballplayer Doug Glanville writes an occasional opinion piece for the NY Times--they are outstanding. Please take some time and go read a few.

Now in the interest of full disclosure, I have a special place in my heart for Glanville because he and my brother were born in the same hospital in New Jersey a few days apart.

Glanville was a Teaneck kid, and we were Bergenfield and Paramus kids. North Jersey readers are smiling now.

So what does Doug Glanville say that Ollie needs to read? It's simple--use free agency to find a place to win a ring because at the end of your career, that is what matters more than anything else.

Still, somewhere in that internal dialogue you ask yourself, “Was I a success?” I suppose it is safe to say that if you are inducted into the Hall of Fame, you probably would answer “Yes.” But I tend to believe that personal success is much more elusive than that.

Even personal success, however, is hard to define without input from the masses. Baseball has a love affair with numbers; it’s how players are measured and, often, how they measure themselves. Their statistics are flipped around, analyzed to the nth degree, placed in boxes of homemade recipes. What did I hit on Astroturf? How many stolen bases did I have in day games? What did I hit against lefties from east of the Mississippi? Before long, it’s easy to find an angle that makes you the either the greatest player on the planet or the worst in history. I finished my career with a 293-game errorless streak on defense. I also hit .210 that last season. Still, can I get a vote?

But there are a few universally accepted measuring sticks that no one can escape. A World Series ring is one of them. Players come to spring training year in and year out obsessing about a championship season. It is hard to imagine, if you hang up the spikes without a ring on your finger, that you don’t have that moment of “Did I fall short?” Even if you are about to enter the Hall.

The more years I played, the more essential that ring came to seem. In my first year of free agency (six years into my major-league march) I preferred a place where I would have the opportunity to play the most. So I headed to Texas. After I got that out of my system, two seasons later, I went to where I thought I had the best chance to win: the New York Yankees. I wanted to end my career with an exclamation point. Finish it off as a winner and enjoy the ticker-tape parade into retirement. That was the plan, until the Yankees’ plan didn’t include my services.
Pretty insightful. He goes on to add:
Maybe I would have approached free agency differently if I’d had more playoff success earlier, before I’d earned the right to test the market. When all is said and done, I made it to the playoffs only once. There were a few second-place finishes, and a winter-league championship in Puerto Rico, but whenever my regular season hat featured an MLB logo, I was pretty much certain to be spending the off-season watching the playoffs on television.

I may not be on the committee that votes players into the Hall of Fame, but I can think of a lot of players who will never be inducted into the Hall, and who never were part of a World Championship team, but who nevertheless make you re-think what it means to be “successful.”
Ollie, if by chance you're a reader of the NY Times, take heed.

The Mets will give you a chance to win, to win now, and to keep you from looking back at the end of your journey and asking, "what could have been?"

And with apologies to my North Jersey brother, no one wants to be another Doug Glanville.
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Jose Reyes: 4,000 Hits?

Jose Reyes led the National League in hits last year. At the tender age of 25 he has already amassed 919 hits, and he won't turn 26 until June 11th, 60 games into the season.

Now none of this really matters, but it is fun to project what this man might one day accomplish before he hangs up those magical spikes.

He'll have about 250 more at-bats before his 26th birthday, and if he bats around .327 to start the season, he'll get hit number 1,000 on his 26th birthday.

With another typical Reyes season he will finish 2009 with over 1,100 hits.

Let's put that in perspective. With about 220 more games until Reyes turns 27, we can project him at close to 1,200 hits before his 27th birthday. Where would that rank all-time?

Hits Before age 27
1.Ty Cobb
2.Mel Ott
3.Al Kaline
4.Vada Pinson
5.Robin Yount
6.Alex Rodriguez
7.Freddie Lindstrom
8.Rogers Hornsby
9.Hank Aaron
10.Jimmie Foxx
That is pretty elite company. With continued good health, his speed, and his athletic frame, Reyes has the potential to amass some truly amazing statistics. Though 60 games shy of his 26th birthday, he is already 8th in steals for age 25 players and just outside the top 10 in triples.

The scary thing is that Reyes is getting better. Many teammates predict he will one day lead the league in hitting. Now while I won't go that far, I will say that Reyes will continue to produce. With only similar production over the next few years he will go over 2,000 hits at age 30.
Hits Including Age 30 Seasons
1.Ty Cobb
2.Hank Aaron
3.Rogers Hornsby
4.Alex Rodriguez
5.Mel Ott
6.Jimmie Foxx
7.Robin Yount
8.Vada Pinson
9.Joe Medwick
10.Willie Keeler
That my friends, is something I look forward to watching.

And don't forget those hips.

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Monday, January 26, 2009

The All-Time Mets Team by Season

If you could go back in time, and pick and choose your greatest Mets starting lineup, pitchers and bench from all the players in Mets history, who would you choose?

What years would you pick?

What would your lineup card look like?

There have been so many amazing individual seasons--it's tough to narrow down--also, when you look at the all-time Mets stats, it's amazing how much better our lefthanded pitchers have been over the years. We have several great righty's, Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden come to mind, but for individual outstanding seasons, the lefty's dominate.

The bench was difficult--you need speed, pinch hitting, and defense. There are several obvious omissions, but only so many slots. HoJo is my utility guy.

Overall I think this team would win about 125-130 games over a 162 game season and sweep the playoffs and World Series. Then again, we might lose 1 or 2 games in the playoffs with Benitez and Franco as the closers.

Here are my picks for the greatest Mets team ever:

The Starting Lineup:

Jose Reyes, SS, (2006 season), 122 Runs, 64 SB
Edgardo Alfonzo, 2B, (1999 season), 123 Runs, 122 RBIs, 125 OPS+
Carlos Beltran, CF, (2006 season), 41 HR, 116 RBI, 150 OPS+
David Wright, 3B, (2007 season), 113 Runs, .325 BA, 34 SB, 150 OPS+
Darryl Strawberrry, RF (1987 season), 39 HR, 104 RBI, 36 SB, 162 OPS+
Gary Carter, C, (1985 season), 32 HR, 100 RBI, 138 OPS+
John Olerud, 1B, (1998 season), 197 H, .354 BA, .447 OBP, 163 OPS+
Cleon Jones, LF, (1969 season), .340 BA, .422 OBP, 16 SB, 151 OPS+

The Bench:

Mike Piazza, C, (1999 season), 40 HR, 124 RBI, .303 BA, 134 OPS+
Keith Hernandez, 1B, (1984 season), 15 HR, 94 RBI, .311 BA, 143 OPS+
Lance Johnson, OF, (1996 season), 117 R, 227 H, 50 SB, .333 BA
Bernard Gilkey, OF, (1996 season), 108 R, 30 HR, 117 RBI, 155 OPS+
Howard Johnson, 3B/SS, (1989 season), 104 R, 36 HR, 101 RBI, 41 SB, 169 OPS+
Rusty Staub, PH, (1981 season), .317 BA, .398 OBP, 147 OPS+

The Starting Pitchers:

Tom Seaver, RHP, (1969 season), 25-7, 208 K, 165 ERA+
Dwight Gooden, RHP, (1985 season), 24-4, 268 K, 228 ERA+
Jerry Koosman, LHP, (1976 season), 21-10, 200 K, 1.09 WHIP
David Cone, RHP, (1988 season), 20-3, 213 K, 146 ERA+
Frank Viola, LHP, (1990 season), 20-12, 182 K, 141 ERA+

The Bullpen:

Jesse Orosco, LHP, (1983 season), 13-7, 17 SV, 247 ERA+
Armando Benitez, RHP, (1999 season), 4-3, 22 SV, 128 K in 78 IP, 240 ERA+
John Franco, LHP, (1996 season) 4-3, 28 SV, 219 ERA+
Pedro Martinez, RHP, (2005 season), 15-8, 208 Ks, 145 ERA+
Al Leiter, LHP, (1998 season), 17-6, 170 ERA+
Tug McGraw, LHP, (1971 season), 11-4, 200 ERA+

I'd absolutely want Gil Hodges managing this team with Davey Johnson as his bench coach.

For a look at the all-time Mets leaders, please click here.

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Bronx Zoo: Part 2

Count me among those that thank my lucky stars the day I was given my first blue and orange Mets hat vice a black and white Yankee cap.

As reported in the NY Post, Joe Torre's new book is a stunner, and frankly, it all comes as no surprise.

He rips Alex Rodriguez, George Steinbrenner, and describes, in detail, his departure from the franchise he managed to four World Series titles.

While the Mets certainly don't have the storied history of the Yankees, we also don't have the drama, the revolving door of players, the spend, spend, spend mentality, and a legion of bandwagon fans who cries for even more spending in the hopes of buying yet another championship.

There is something dignified about being a Mets fan--we're loyal to the core--and I couldn't imagine trying to like a team, much less root for a team, that behaves like the Yankees.

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CitiField Fanwalk Bricks are Back on Sale

In one of the cooler money making schemes the Mets have thought of in recent years, the team has put CitiWalk bricks back on sale.

Was I tempted to buy one? Yes.

Did I? No, but now that they are back on sale, the temptation is just too much, and it was my birthday yesterday.

Truth be told these things are reasonably priced, you get a replica brick for your man-cave or office, and you will be a part of the Mets new home forever.

More info from the website:

The Citi Field Fanwalk is where Mets fans can become a permanent part of Citi Field through the purchase of individual engraved bricks surrounding the main entry of Citi Field. Fans will be able to recognize their family, friends and favorite Mets moments through lasting tributes engraved directly onto the bricks of the plaza outside of the Jackie Robinson Rotunda. A complimentary replica brick comes with each order and makes a great addition to your home or office.

• All information must be clear and complete to process your order.
• Choose the size/style of brick(s) you are ordering.
• Each order includes one complimentary replica brick.
• Additional replica bricks can be purchased at prices indicated below.
• International orders cannot be accepted using this form.
• Replica bricks will be engraved and shipped at no charge (within the continental U.S.) within 8-10 weeks of the receipt of your order.

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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Shea Stadium Demolishment Video

Incredible video of Shea Stadium in mid-demolishment.

So sad to see the old girl go.

Oliver Perez Talks Heating Up: 4th Year in Negotiation

The negotiations with Ollie have heated up to the point where I expect a signing announcement shortly.

The final pieces are squarely centered around the 4th year.

The Mets current offer is reported to be 3/$31.5M, with a club option 4th for 4/$43M or a $2.5M buyout.

This is from the same source that gave the Garcia info, so again, it's third party, but I believe it to be accurate.

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Hot or Not?

All fans of the terrific NBC show, "The Office", know what is coming next.

Hilary Swank: Hot or Not?

Well, let this Mets fan say: Hot!

Yes, that is one good looking Million Dollar Baby in a Mets hat!

FYI, we'll have an update on Oliver Perez soon.

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Friday, January 23, 2009

A Wing and a Prayer

As the days of this most curious winter dwindle down, and we approach the wonder that is pitchers and catchers, the Mets carefully piece together a starting pitching staff. And they are doing it on a wing and a prayer.

Perhaps they will wave a chicken bone cross across the once magic arm of Freddy Garcia, who is attempting to come back from a torn labrum. This is the same Garcia who was among the top starters in the American League from 1999 through 2006. In that eight-year span, he ranked first in the A.L. in innings pitched, with 1,643 2/3, and second to Mike Mussina in victories, with 116.

John Maine, a man most Mets fans pencil in as the #3 starter, is also coming back from injury. He will get a garlic necklace and a Shaman. Maine, who expected to win 15+ games last year and continue developing into one of the National League’s better starters, had what he called a disappointing season. A bone spur in his right shoulder knocked him out when the Mets needed him most.

Then there's Tim Redding. Redding gets a witch doctor, a set of new bandages, a GPS navigation system, and a daily dose of my grandmother's chicken soup.

Jan 12, 2009: Signed as a free agent by the New York Mets to a one-year contract.
Dec 12, 2008: Washington Nationals declined to tender a contract.
Jan 17, 2008: Re-signed by the Washington Nationals to a one-year contract.
Sep 17, 2007: Missed 9 games (elbow injury).
Sep 6, 2007: Elbow injury, day-to-day.
Jul 2, 2007: Contract purchased from Columbus (AAA).
Mar 26, 2007: Assigned to minor league camp by the Washington Nationals.
Mar 25, 2007: Outrighted to Columbus (AAA).
Feb 6, 2007: Re-signed by the Washington Nationals to a one-year contract.
Nov 6, 2006: Signed as a free agent by the Washington Nationals to a one-year contract.
Nov 1, 2006: Opted for minor league free agency.
Mar 27, 2006: Assigned to minor league camp.
Dec 23, 2005: Signed by the Chicago White Sox to a minor league contract.
Jul 16, 2005: Designated for assignment.
Jul 14, 2005: Contract purchased from Columbus (AAA).
Jul 2, 2005: Acquired from the San Diego Padres.
Jun 22, 2005: Missed 39 games (strained right shoulder).
May 9, 2005: Strained right shoulder, 15-day DL.
Mar 28, 2005: Acquired from the Houston Astros.
Feb 7, 2005: Re-signed by the Houston Astros to a one-year contract.
Oct 5, 2004: Did not make the playoff roster.
Sep 6, 2004: Recalled from New Orleans (AAA).
Aug 11, 2004: Optioned to New Orleans (AAA).
Feb 27, 2004: Re-signed by the Houston Astros to a one-year contract.
Jun 8, 2003: Missed 4 games (shoulder injury).
Jun 4, 2003: Shoulder injury, day-to-day.
Jul 25, 2002: Optioned to New Orleans (AAA).
Jul 21, 2002: Missed 1 game (right knee injury).
Jul 20, 2002: Right knee injury, day-to-day.
Now while the upside of Garcia is certainly there, and Redding did throw the most big league innings of his career in 2008, we still wonder when the Mets will add some stability to this rotation.

They now must sign Oliver Perez...there is no other way around it.

At this point Ben Sheets, with his arm worries, seems less likely of a target, but he will certainly fit in with this group.

The Mets training staff commented on the current pitching staff with one simple statement: "Holy Crap!"
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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Freddy Garcia is a Met

As we posted two days ago based on a tip that the Mets would sign a pitcher this week, the Mets did just that, signing Freddy Garcia to an incentive laden deal.

Freddy Garcia agreed to a minor league deal with the team in an effort to continue his comeback.

More details will follow as they become available.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Mets Secret Weapon: Jerry Manuel

For all of the hand wringing that's gone on since the Mets second consecutive disappointing finish, Mets fans can take heart.

One, the Mets signed not one, but two of the premier closers in the game this off-season.

Two, the team enters the season, at least to this point, in good health.

Three, Jerry Manuel is the manager.

Huh? What is all this "three" stuff?

Let's take a peek at Jerry's managerial record:

Year    League   Team     Age  G     W    L    WP   Finish
1998 AL Cent ChicagoW 44 162 80 82 .494 2
1999 AL Cent ChicagoW 45 161 75 86 .466 2
2000 AL Cent ChicagoW 46 162 95 67 .586 1
2001 AL Cent ChicagoW 47 162 83 79 .512 3
2002 AL Cent ChicagoW 48 162 81 81 .500 2
2003 AL Cent ChicagoW 49 162 86 76 .531 2
2008 NL East NewYorkM 54 93 55 38 .591 2
ChicagoW 971 500 471 .515
NewYorkM 93 55 38 .591
TOTAL 1064 555 509 .522
That is a very good record of success. Like many managers and NFL coaches, it's the second go-around as the boss that generates the most success. Think Joe Torre and Bill Belichick.

The Mets played close to .600 ball after Jerry took the helm. Over a full season that works out to 96 wins.

The Phillies won the NL East with a 92-70 record.

The Players respond well to Jerry. He is excellent with a lineup card, and has a great knack for playing the right guy at the right time.

His biggest flaw in 2008 was trying to juggle a pitching staff that was without key starters, a bullpen that was without its closer, and using a bunch of middle relievers/long men to piece together outing after outing. It wasn't pretty.

So while all of the tea leaves tell us the Mets must sign one more starter (and they will), the fanbase should feel more confident than ever in their team.

The Mets will hit; the Mets will score; the Mets will close out games; the Mets will win.

They will do this with a steady hand at the tiller from Day 1...the hand of Jerry Manuel.
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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Things are Shaping Up (Slowly)

OK, it's been a slow few days, we have a new President, and it's time to update the site on what's happening (and not happening) with the Mets.

First the "what's not happening". No news on Ollie or Sheets, just a lot of speculation.

Now the "happening".

First, two of our guys that flashed last year, Ryan Church and Angel Pagan, both avoided arbitration and inked deals with the Mets for 2009.

Ryan Church signed for $2.8 million, a nice bump from the $2 million he earned in 2008. As my faithful readers know, I have predicted a huge season for Church in 2009.

Last Half 2007/First Half 2008:

209 AB, 25 R, 55 H, 19 2B, 1 3B, 8 HR, 33 RBI, 17 BB, 52 K, .293 BA, .354 OBP, .532 Slg, .886 OPS

205 AB, 40 R, 63 H, 10 2B, 1 3B, 10 HR, 36 RBI, 19 BB, 50 K, .307 BA, .370 OBP, .512 Slg, .882 OPS

Now let's combine those numbers.

414 AB, 65 R, 118 H, 29 2B, 2 3B, 18 HR, 69 RBI, 36 BB, 102 K, .300 BA, .362 OBP, .522 Slg, .884 OPS

Now let's look at those numbers over 525 at bats.

2009 Projection:

525 AB, 83 R, 150 H, 37 2B, 3 3B, 23 HR, 88 RBI, 46 BB, 130 K, .300 BA, .362 OBP, .522 Slg, .884 OPS
Angel Pagan--the guy that had us all excited after a great start, only to watch him fall to injury--will earn $575,000 if he makes the club. At this point Pagan is something for a question mark. He had a torn labrum and has undergone some extensive rehab, but we won't know how well he can swing the bat until we see him next month in Florida.

So that leaves John Maine and Pedro Feliciano as the Mets only two remaining arbitration players.

Also, and take it for what it's worth--someone "in the know" e-mailed me 2 hours ago to say the Mets will sign a pitcher this week "guaranteed".

Stay Tuned.
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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Historic Times, Baseball and the Negro Leagues

It's hard to gauge baseball's true impact on desegregation. Let's face facts, baseball was purposefully and willfully segregated.

In fact, teams were still segregated until 1959, when Pumpsie Green became the last "first" black player to make his debut, finally breaking the barrier for the last holdout team: the widely scorned Boston Red Sox.

It's amazing, and shameful, that the Red Sox couldn't find a black player for their roster until more than 12 years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier.

Each team's first black player and debut date:

Player Team Date
Jackie Robinson Brooklyn Dodgers, NL April 15, 1947
Larry Doby Cleveland Indians, AL July 5, 1947
Hank Thompson St. Louis Browns, AL July 17, 1947
Monte Irvin New York Giants, NL July 8, 1949
Hank Thompson
Sam Jethroe Boston Braves, NL April 18, 1950
Minnie Miñoso Chicago White Sox, AL May 1, 1951
Bob Trice Philadelphia Athletics, AL Sept. 13, 1953
Ernie Banks Chicago Cubs, NL Sept. 17, 1953
Curt Roberts Pittsburgh Pirates, NL April 13, 1954
Tom Alston St. Louis Cardinals, NL April 13, 1954
Nino Escalera Cincinnati Reds, NL April 17, 1954
Chuck Harmon
Carlos Paula Washington Senators, AL Sept. 6, 1954
Elston Howard New York Yankees, AL April 14, 1955
John Kennedy Philadelphia Phillies, NL April 22, 1957
Ozzie Virgil, Sr. Detroit Tigers, AL June 6, 1958
Pumpsie Green Boston Red Sox, AL July 21, 1959

As Mets fans we take great pride in the tribute paid to Jackie Robinson in Citi Field. New York has always been one of the most, if not the most, progressive cities in the world. Mets fans, many of whom have a direct lineage to the old Brooklyn Dodgers, cannot wait to see the "tribute to Jackie" when the stadium opens in just a few months. I am personally ecstatic that the Mets chose this beautiful venue for this wonderful and deserving tribute.

But for all the change, all the tributes, and all the self-glorifying that occurs when baseball gives itself a collective pat on the back, there are still issues worth discussing.

Baseball is a different sport now and all clubhouses feature a variety of colors, religions, races, and nationalities. There is one disturbing trend, however, that's been well documented: there are fewer and fewer black players. In fact, only 8.3% of major leaguers are African-American, down from 19% just a decade ago. And we see our two most recent Hall of Fame inductees are both black players, now seemingly from a different era, but if I asked you today, "which current African-American ballplayers are Hall of Famers?", I bet your list wouldn't be very long.

Football, on the other hand, has seen a dramatic rise in the number of African-American players. Of more interest, however, is how little attention is played to the desegregation on professional football.
At its inception in 1920, the American Professional Football Association had several African-American players (a total of thirteen between 1920 and 1933). Fritz Pollard and Bobby Marshall were the first black players in what is now the NFL in 1920. Pollard became the first black coach in 1921. However, by 1932 the subsequent National Football League had only two black players, and by 1934 there were none. This disappearance of black players from the NFL effectively coincided with the entry of one of the leading owners of the league, George Preston Marshall. Marshall openly refused to have black athletes on his Boston Braves/Washington Redskins team, and reportedly pressured the rest of the league to follow suit. The NFL did not have another black player until after World War II.

In the NFL, when the Cleveland Rams wanted to move to Los Angeles, it was stipulated in their contract with the Los Angeles Coliseum that they had to integrate their team, so they signed two UCLA teammates, Woody Strode and Kenny Washington, who were playing semi-pro ball in the area in 1946. Still, Marshall was quoted as saying "We'll start signing Negroes when the Harlem Globetrotters start signing whites." In spite of this open bias, Marshall was elected to the NFL's Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963. As part of his "qualifications"' for enshrinement, the hall says: "Marshall was totally involved in all aspects of his team's operation and endured his share of criticism for not integrating his team until being forced to do so in 1962." The Redskins had no black players until they succumbed to the threat of civil-rights legal action by the Kennedy administration. The Redskins eventually came through though signing Bobby Mitchell and two other African American players by 1962. In 1946, the Cleveland Browns of a rival pro football league, the All-America Football Conference, signed two black players: Marion Motley and Bill Willis.

Even when the NFL did sign black players, poor treatment was evident. Reportedly, black players routinely received lower contracts than whites in the NFL, while in the American Football League there was no such distinction based on race.[1] Position segregation was also prevalent at this time. According to several books such as the autobiography of Vince Lombardi, black players were stacked at "speed" positions such as Defensive Back but excluded from "intelligent" positions such as Quarterback and Center. However despite the NFL's segregationist policies, after the league merged with the more tolerant AFL in 1970, more than 30% of the merged league's players were African American. Today, recent surveys have shown that the NFL is approximately 57-61% non-white (this includes African Americans, Polynesians, non-white Hispanics, Asians, and people that are mixed race.) Conversely, the American Football League actively recruited players from small colleges that had been largely ignored by the NFL, giving those schools' black players the opportunity to play professional football. As a result, for the years 1960 through 1962, AFL teams averaged 17% more blacks than NFL teams did.[2] By 1969, a comparison of the two league's championship team photos showed the AFL's Chiefs with 23 black players out of 51 players pictured, while the NFL Vikings had 11 blacks, of 42 players in the photo. The American Football League had the first black placekicker in U.S. professional football, Gene Mingo of the Denver Broncos; and the first black regular starting quarterbacks of the modern era, Marlin Briscoe of the Broncos and James Harris of the Buffalo Bills. Willie Thrower was a back up quarterback who saw some action in the 1950s for the Chicago Bears.
Football has a very interesting history of race relations, but it is rarely spoken of, especially in comparison to other sports.

And that brings us back to baseball. While baseball celebrates itself over the next few days as an institution that brought about change, it has also come full circle. It was an elitist institution that prohibited blacks from playing in its league, and now has seemingly lost the allure it once had for young black athletes. Did you know that in 2005, the Houston Astros reached the World Series without one black player on the roster?

The MLB Network is airing a special tribute to the Negro Leagues tomorrow night with the debut documentary Pride and Perseverance: The Story of the Negro Leagues, airing at 9:00 p.m. ET on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Monday, January 19. This never before aired one-hour special is narrated by Hall of Famer and Negro Leagues advocate Dave Winfield. Debuting on the eve of President-elect Barack Obama's historic inauguration, the documentary will depict the history of African Americans in the Negro Leagues and Major League Baseball.

It will feature the history of Negro Leagues baseball players in the early half of the century leading up to the modern era's African-American Major League Baseball players. Produced by Major League Baseball Productions, Pride and Perseverance: The Story of the Negro Leagues, will showcase rarely seen footage from the 1920s through 1950s that feature the birth of the Negro Leagues, and that depict both the struggles endured and milestones achieved by its players.

Today begins a great and historic week in our country's history. We start with Martin Luther King Day tomorrow, followed by the swearing in of our first African-American President.

And I still ponder baseball, always baseball. What if Jackie Robinson didn't break the color barrier in 1947? How would the forces of change have shifted to the inevitable? Why do we glorify baseball and the its impact on desegregation when it, for so long, was partially responsible for the separation of equals?

At the end of the day we are all better off for what happened those 62 years ago--a lifetime ago--but we haven't fully come to grips with the true meaning, and we probably never will.
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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Jerry: Bat Tatis/Murphy Second

The Mets had a very good lineup last year, but in my opinion it wasn't optimized.

I'm sure everyone has their opinion on who should bat where, and here's my hack at it.

Fernando Tatis / Daniel Murphy

As I detailed here, there is a right way and a wrong way to platoon Tatis and Murphy.

So let's first re-visit how they should be used:

Let's look at Tatis and Murphy and see if the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Fernando Tatis, RH Hitter, 2008:

vs RH: 167 AB, .287 BA, .353 OBP, .527 Slg, .880 OPS, 10 HR, 28 RBI
vs LH: 106 AB, .311 BA, .393 OBP, .415 Slg, .809 OPS, 1 HR, 19 RBI

Daniel Murphy
, LH Hitter, 2008:

vs RH: 121 AB, .306 BA, .391 OBP, .455 Slg, .846 OPS, 1 HR, 14 RBI
vs LH: 10 AB, .400 BA, .462 OBP, .700 Slg, 1.162 OPS, 1 HR, 3 RBI

Right away we see the issue--Tatis hit righty's and lefty's with almost equal effectiveness, but his power is down against lefty's. When you view his career splits, the numbers are equal. In other words--he doesn't fit the mold.

So let's dig a bit deeper, and look at both players home and away stats:


H: 143 AB, .350 BA, .409 OBP, .545 Slg, .954 OPS
130 AB, .238 BA, .327 OBP, .415 Slg, .742 OPS


H: 67 AB,
.284 BA, .380 OBP, .463 Slg, .842 OPS
64 AB, .344 BA, .417 OBP, .484 Slg, .901 OPS

More obvious disconnects. Tatis thrived at Shea and Murphy thrived on the road. We'll have a new park in 2009, so we'll have to see if this was more psychological than anything else.

One last key to these player's differences--type of pitcher.

Each fared well against average and finesse pitchers, but against power pitchers, Murphy, with his short stroke, has an enormous edge.

73 AB, .229 BA, .297 OBP, .361 Slg, .658 OPS
Murphy: 35 AB,
.314 BA, .467 OBP, .543 Slg, 1.010 OPS
So with that said, where does this potential dynamic duo best fit in the lineup?

To me it's obvious: second

Both players bring certain strengths to the 2 hole.

With Tatis, you get exceptional RBI ability. To whit, in 2008 he batted .392 with RISP and .308 in Late and Close situations.

The case for Daniel Murphy is even stronger.

Murphy had 63 at-bats in the #2 hole in 2008 and batted .333. Moreover, he hit .375 with RISP and .450 in Late and Close situations. Now in the interest of full disclosure he only had 20 at-bats in Late and Close, but he did produce 9 hits.

By putting these two hitters at the top of the lineup--and hitters they are--you get exceptional punch, the ability to hit to all fields, the opportunity to play the "right guy against the right pitcher", and high OBP where it matters most--before your thumpers reach the plate.

It almost makes too much sense.
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Oh That Mets Payroll

I bet you've wondered to yourself lately, "what exactly is the Mets payroll?"

Let's try to answer that question thanks to some friends of ours at Cot's Baseball Contracts. You can also look at last year's salaries over at ESPN.

First we'll take our guaranteed contracts and put them in descending order according to value:

Johan Santana - $20,000,000
Carlos Beltran - $18,500,000

Carlos Delgado - $12,000,000

Billy Wagner - $10,500,000
Francisco Rodriguez - $8,500,000

David Wright- $7,500,000
Luis Castillo - $6,000,000

Jose Reyes - $5,750,000
J.J. Putz - $5,000,000

Brian Schneider - $4,900,000

Ramon Castro - $2,500,000

Tim Redding - $2,250,000

Alex Cora - $2,000,000

Fernando Tatis - $1,700,000

Mike Pelfrey - $1,312,500

Marlon Anderson - $1,150,000
Sean Green - $405,000
Daniel Murphy - $400,000

Jonathon Niese - $400,000

The Mets also have several players that filed for arbitration:

Ryan Church
Pedro Feliciano
Duaner Sanchez
John Maine
Jeremy Reed

While it's impossible to say for certain while they will make, the tea leaves say it will be between $8M and $9M, so let's use $8.5M as our factor.

And don't forget we still owe
Scott Schoeneweis $1,600,000 as part of the trade deal.

So with everything added together, the Mets current payroll comes in at just under $124M. This represents a drop off of $14M from last year's payroll of $138M.

Now as a businessman myself, I use 4% as my wage growth factor each year. People work hard, they want more money, they get promoted, and inflation and cost of living adjustmens must be made.

If we factor in that same 4% for the Mets, their 2009 payroll should be $143.5M. This still places the Mets well under the luxury tax threshold of $162M.

So at $124M now, the Mets can add Oliver Perez at $11M per year and still be under last year's payroll by a few million. If they were to also add Adam Dunn, it would put them just over last year's payroll if you include a COLA and inflation adjustment.

Just something to ponder.

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Friday, January 16, 2009

Fonzie Rising: A Comeback in the Offing

Edgardo Alfonzo, yes THAT Edgardo Alfonzo, is making a bid to return to the big leagues.

Remember when we had the best defensive infield ever? Magical times my friends...magic.

In a story reminiscent of Fernando Tatis, Fonzie was last seen in a big league uniform in 2006, when he hit a paltry .126 for the Angels and Blue Jays. He was a former star and still young when he departed. It seems as if his true promise was never met.

He has now dropped a few pounds and is raking in the Venezuelan leagues to the tune of a .322 BA, with 8 dingers and 42 RBIs in 60 games.

It would be great to see this past Mets star make a comeback and play some worthwhile games for a contender. He's obviously not a good fit for the Mets, but he would be an excellent fit for the Devil Rays, Cubs or Yankees as a pinch hitter and role player.

If nothing else he is a fantastic teammate and can help younger players on their technique.

Good luck Fonzie!

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Mets Mates on Ollie: Yes, Yes, Yes

One thing is certain: Oliver Perez has the full backing and support of his 2008 teammates and coaches.

"Bring him back!" is the universal rallying cry.

Billy Wagner: "He's possibly one of those guys who can win the Cy Young award every year," Billy Wagner told The Post yesterday. "It's just, which Ollie is going to show up?

"Oliver has got No. 1 stuff, but he's probably that No. 3 or 4 type pitcher because he can't stay focused for pitching against the Pittsburgh Pirates. He's that No. 1 guy for when you're playing against the Phillies and Braves or in the playoffs and you've got to get that win."

Johan Santana: "Oliver is a guy that has learned a lot from last year and we had a good time with him,” Santana said.

“Hopefully Omar finds a way to keep him. He’s learned a lot of things from last year. He learned that every game is important. I told him from the beginning it doesn’t matter what you do tomorrow. Learn from today and you’ll be fine tomorrow.

“Sometimes he lets his emotions take over. I’m pretty sure he’ll improve this year. Hopefully Omar finds a way to keep him in NewYork. He’s not just a great teammate. He’s going to be a good pitcher, too.”

Rick Peterson: "You want a guy who can dominate in your division, and he's only going to get better," Peterson said. "If I'm a Mets fan or in the front office, I'm very happy if Oliver Perez is returning."

Bottom line is the Mets know they have a chance to win now--and that chance is better with Ollie in tow.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Picking the Perfect Mets Team

If you could go back in time, and pick and choose your greatest Mets starting lineup from all the players in Mets history, who would you choose?

What years would you pick?

What would your lineup card look like?

There have been so many amazing individual seasons--it's tough to narrow down--here are my picks for the starters.

The Starting Lineup:

Jose Reyes, SS, (2008 season)
Edgardo Alfonzo, 2B, (1999 season)
Carlos Beltran, CF, (2006 season)
David Wright, 3B, (2007 season)
Darryl Strawberrry, RF (1987 season)
Mike Piazza, C, (1999 season)
John Olerud, 1B, (1998 season)
Cleon Jones, LF, (1969 season)

Tom Seaver, RHP, (1969 season)
Dwight Gooden, RHP, (1985 season)
Jerry Koosman, LHP, (1976 season)
David Cone, RHP, (1988 season)
Frank Viola, LHP, (1990 season)

Tomorrow we'll select the bench, followed by the coaches and manager.

For a look at the all-time Mets leaders, please click here.

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